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Scientists gather to protect global food security from return of devastating wheat fungus
Date:3/5/2009

The sudden and unexpected re-emergence of a fungus that could cripple wheat production in Africa, Asia and, eventually, Europe and the Americas, has prompted wheat experts from around the world, led by Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, to gather March 17-20 in Ciudad Obregn, Mexico, to map out a strategy for averting agricultural disaster for a crop that provides food and livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people.

In an indication of the international scope of the threat, scientists from an unprecedented number and range of countries among them Australia, China, Iran, India, Egypt, the U.S., Mexico, Kenya, Uruguay, South Africa, Canada, Denmark, and Ethiopiawill present new information on the development and distribution of wheat that is resistant to a new strain of wheat stem rust called Ug99. The spread of this virulent new strain is ultimately expected to require replacement of most wheat varieties under cultivation worldwide.

In the 1950s, a fatal strain of wheat stem rust invaded North America and, at one point, ruined 40 percent of the spring wheat crop. The epidemic prompted Borlaug, working with a team of scientists in Mexico, to develop highly productive, rust-resistant varieties that helped launch the Green Revolution. The work was credited with averting hunger and starvation for millions worldwide and earned Borlaug the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize. For decades, wheat varieties that were a product of the Green Revolution have kept farmers safe from stem rust. But these varieties are not resistant to a new strain of stem rust that emerged unexpectedly several years ago in Uganda and shows signs of posing a significant threat to wheat production worldwide.

The site of the meeting in Ciudad Obregn is where Borlaug and his Mexican partners did much of their original work. It is home to a wheat research station owned by the Mexican agricultural research program, INIFAP, and the farmer associ
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Contact: Coimbra Sirica
csirica@burnesscommunications.com
631-836-3181
Burness Communications
Source:Eurekalert

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